Deer Park woman struggles with permanent effects of West Nile Virus

Maureen Jones never imagined a mosquito bite would change her life.

She was outside her Spokane home in September 2017 with her husband when she felt mosquitos at her ankles. Two days later, her body broke out in a rash. Doctors couldn’t figure out the cause, only that it was viral. Jones experienced a painful headache days later along with a 103 degree fever. Her husband made her go to the hospital.

“We walked out to the car and that’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital a couple weeks later,” Jones said.

It took doctors four days to diagnose her with West Nile encephalitis. The virus had infected the lining of her brain.

“It probably didn’t even register what was wrong with me until several weeks later because I was too sick to even really care,” Jones said. “I was flat on my back in bed for several months.”

Her sickness went away with anti-vial drugs. Two years later, the crippling effects still linger.

“It changed my whole life. I lost my independence.”

Jones can no longer walk or stand on her own. She relies on her walker and custom-made braces for her legs. She also has memory loss and slurred speech.

“It’s been a very frustrating, humbling experience.”

Jones had to move out of her Spokane home to a more accessible home in Deer Park. There are no stairs and the doors are wide enough for her wheelchair.

Through it all, Jones is staying positive in part because of the strong support from her family and husband Phil who’s with her every step of the way.

“This is the better or worse thing, sickness and health and so you know, I’m in this for the long haul because I love her,” Phil said.

According to the CDC one out of 150 people infected with West Nile Virus experience serious symptoms. Jones said she never liked bug spray — she hopes her story will serve as a warning.

So far in 2019 there have been no reported human cases of the virus in Washington or North Idaho.